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Monday, July 22, 2024

EU Ambassador denies reports of massive deportation of Gambians

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By Omar Bah

The European Union Ambassador to The Gambia, Corrado Pampaloni, has refuted claims that there has been massive deportation of Gambians from the European Union.

Reacting to recent reports about the number of Gambians being deported from Germany, Ambassador Pampaloni said: “Regularly, the media report on Gambian citizens who return to their home country after exhausting their right to stay in a given third country. In this context, recently some of the media echoed the call of a diaspora activist based in Germany to ‘halt mass deportations’ from the EU. Migration is a complex topic entailing various dimensions that require a rational approach that respects factual accuracy. To start with there are no mass deportations of Gambians from Europe.”

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The ambassador argued that the persons that are returned to The Gambia are people who have exhausted their legal remedies to remain in one of the EU Member States.

“The same principle applies elsewhere in the world, since all countries have an obligation under international law to readmit their own nationals. In that context, The Gambia, the EU and Member States do indeed cooperate. In this context, the EU unequivocally outlines that there are no mass deportations taking place from European countries to The Gambia or to any other country. Readmissions had been put on halt and resumed only in 2022, after a moratorium on returns was lifted. That year, 235 Gambians returned and, in 2023, there were 614 Gambians who were returned from EU Member States,” he explained.

Ambassador Pampaloni disclosed that in the year 2023 alone, 9247 have illegally migrated to European Union countries.

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“In other words, there have been 15 times more Gambians arriving illegally in Europe than people actually returning. With people returning to The Gambia last year representing only around 6.6 % of the proportion of the illegal arrivals, it proves that there are simply no mass deportations whatsoever. Besides, a high number of Gambian migrants are voluntarily repatriated yearly with the help of the IOM. For example, this year only, more than 1700 Gambians were concerned. However, these voluntary returns should not be confused with the forced ones,” he stated.

The EU, he added, assists all migrants returning to The Gambia and that the EU is well aware of the challenges and difficulties migrants returning to their country of origin may face and provides various forms of reintegration assistance to facilitate the return into the community.

“Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency – which supports the management of the EU’s external borders and the fight against cross-border crime – is providing reintegration assistance both during the first days following the arrival in the country of origin, as well as longer-term assistance – up to 12 months (post- return assistance) – to help third country nationals reintegrate into their societies. Examples of assistance provided include support with accommodation, medical assistance, job counselling, education, family reunification and other,” he added.

The EU diplomat added: “Additional support is provided by the EU in The Gambia to migrants. In particular, a 15 million euros project (under the so called “Flexible Mechanism for Migration”) is currently being designed to provide more assistance in the following areas: community-based and psycho-social reintegration support to returnees, youth employability and strengthening of The Gambia’s human capital, preventing and fighting smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings. To avoid people from being forced to return from an illegal migration destination, we have collectively to continue addressing the root causes, hence reducing the incentive of young people to leave in the first place. This is even more important that taking the “back way” represents a major life-threatening danger.”

 Last year, Ambassador Pampaloni added, “was sadly the deadliest year on record for migrants with nearly 8,600 people who lost their life across the world”.

“It is in order also to address these root causes and give the youth hope that the EU is one of The Gambia’s main partners in fighting poverty and in development cooperation. More than 500 million euros have been allocated in The Gambia between 2017 and 2024. This scale of support of our EU citizens and taxpayers is

simply unprecedented. The EU funded programmes and projects support sustainable socio-economic development, transitional justice, the security sector reform and democratic governance,” he added.

He said more specifically, more than 10,000 new jobs were created in The Gambia thanks to

the partnership between the EU and The Gambian Government.

“For example, since 2017, to support the Gambian youth, our EU Youth Empowerment Project (YEP)

has created 4290 jobs, provided technical and/or vocational training programmes to nearly 6000 young people and offered entrepreneurship services and business support to 4710 youth. All these efforts, amongst others, will continue to contribute supporting the Gambian authorities and the private sector to create job opportunities for the youth and therefore create a future for themselves in The Gambia,” the diplomat added.

He said the EU is committed to promoting “legal pathways”, adding that migration is a global reality that has always existed and will always exist.

“Many of us, also in Europe, are sons and daughters of migrants. However, migration, anywhere in the world, needs to be regulated. The EU is committed to promoting “legal pathways”, in other words improving the management of legal migration which is in the interest of both the EU and The Gambia. In this context, the Pact on Migration and Asylum, voted on by the European Parliament in April 2024, does, besides reinforcing readmission cooperation, also support reinforcing legal pathways. In concrete terms, the Pact proposes a “skills and talent” package including a “European Union Talent Pool”: a platform which aims to match EU-based employers with jobseekers in non-EU countries,” he stated.

The EU, the diplomat added, has consistently engaged with its partners like The Gambia – in a Team

Europe approach (i.e. together with the EU Member States) – to address all dimensions of migration: the root causes, the fight against migrant smuggling and promoting “legal pathways”.

“The EU is committed to carrying out its multidimensional approach in good cooperation with The Gambian authorities and all other national actors. While we agree that migration with its various social, economic, human, geopolitical aspects is complex and at times irritating our fruitful partnership, we are also convinced that a balanced and fair approach is both essential and serving Gambian and European interests and societies in the long run,” he concluded.

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